Any development program or actions including women as major actors will have a higher chance of success in improving livelihoods, fighting food insecurity and poverty alleviation. While women are central to Ethiopian rural development, they typically receive an unequal share of the economic benefits from their efforts, an inequity particularly visible in the commercialization of agricultural commodities. A project of the Ethiopian Government implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) adopted calculated strategies in an attempt to ensure that a significant number of women targeted by the project benefitted from value-chain development. The project was more successful in some of the ten woredas (districts) targeted by the project than in others, but those in the project believe that the following ten recommendations stemming from this project apply broadly to the rural Ethiopian agricultural context.
Top ten recommendations
for helping Ethiopian women farmers
break into the marketplace
1 Change mindsets
Men and women both, and at all levels, need to change their traditional ways and to begin to actively involve women in Ethiopia’s rural development. In particular, professionals and other figures of authority, and women as well as men, tend to not see the full potential of Ethiopia’s rural women.
2 Provide incentives
Make increasing women’s participation in trainings and skill development be part of the development agents’ evaluation criteria.
3 Set high but realistic gender targets
At the beginning of development projects, set high but realistic targets for the numbers of women to be reached and involved in the projects.
4 Work with men and women together
Include both heads of households in all gender development work so that men and women together can learn and give each other support in increasing household income, which should then give them both real incentives for increasing the decision-making power of the women.
5 Take a stepwise approach to gender issues
Projects targeting women should focus on commodities such as dairy, small ruminant production, poultry raising, bee keeping and backyard fruit production, which have traditionally been the province of women; as their incomes raise, they may then take on other even more profitable production systems such as cattle fattening.
6 Tailor training for women
When designing capacity building work aiming to enlarge women’s participation in markets, take into account that women often lack the time, confidence, skills and networks that make it possible for them to participate in the training. We need to provide hands-on training at times and venues convenient to women and to link them with input suppliers and markets.
7 Facilitate services
By linking actors along the value chain and facilitating private sector and rural entrepreneurs, government agents will spur Ethiopia’s commercial agriculture.
8 Scale out successes by adapting them to particular contexts
Agricultural interventions and options that work in one place will often not work in another unless the approach to the innovation as well as a given technology is adapted appropriately to the new context.
9 Change self-perceptions
Help women to see that they are a vital link in the agricultural value chain. As in many other parts of the world, rural Ethiopian women typically view themselves more as farm labourers than as household providers and income- earners. To change this will require women accessing more and better- quality information and higher caliber networks as well as other women serving as entrepreneurial role models.
10 Link women to markets
Create opportunities that will involve women as well as men in market-led agricultural activities by, for example, bringing them into relevant discussions; attending to their concerns, needs and ambitions; and ensuring in particular that those ready to enter markets have the links and tools they need to do so.
Follow discussions on this and related topics at a workshop being held this week on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).
Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.
Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.